All Sanctimoniousness and Powerlessness

I’ve wanted to share this video and connect it with the quotes below it for some time. Since the interview came out at the beginning of December, it’s apparently been on my mind for half a year. Ha!

The interview is with John MacArthur on The Ben Shapiro Show. Some of you watched it already, and great. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, and I recommend it as a perfect example of the kind of Dispensationalist (like MacArthur) I want to be and the kind of Dispensationalist I also want to build on.

MacArthur’s answers about Jesus as the only hope are great at heart. His appeal to Shapiro to embrace Jesus as the longed for Messiah of the Jews is true, clear, and gracious. In this way MacArthur keeps the main thing the main thing.

It makes me think of the following comment by Abraham Kuyper, found in the chapter on “Common Grace” in A Centennial Reader (page 172), about the problem with some Christians who get a buzz out of discussing Christian impact without first establishing faith in Christ.

“The sects on the other hand have consistently attempted to change this healthy balance by diverting attention from the deeper questions of justification to drive us toward Chiliasm or the Millennial Kingdom by speaking much about the manner of our physical resurrection, about a prior second coming of our Lord, about whether, according to Paul, the Jews will return to Jerusalem, and the like. One can thus have a stimulating religious conversation without being troubled in conscience or convinced of one’s wretched state before God. Therefore we cannot warn often enough against the danger of shifting conversations in Christian circles away from the salvation of the soul to such eternal but sensational topics. In truly Reformed circles that danger is avoided when the substance of conversation is not Chiliasm or the Jewish question but the question of how God is honored and our soul justified.”

In other words, the “Chiliasts” (that is, the Dispensationalists, those believers who anticipate Israel’s national repentance and restoration as part of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom as promised in Romans 11 and Revelation 20), may focus too much on eschatology and applaud themselves for such spiritual interests and yet miss the gospel requirements of first importance. It is possible to distract others from dealing with Christ’s claims and every man’s need to believe in Him for justification. MacArthur does not get so caught up in the future that he lets Shapiro off the hook in the present. And amen.

However, the Christ that MacArthur proclaims to Shapiro is, ironically, not the complete Christ as revealed in the Bible. Jesus saves souls, yes, and He also has more to say after that. This is where we Dispensationalists often stop building too soon. Here is the very next paragraph from Kuyper:

“…[W]e have no right to conceptualize the image of the Mediator in ways other than Scripture presents it. People fall into one-sidedness in the opposite direction if, reflecting on the Christ, they think exclusively of the blood shed in atonement and refuse to take account of the significance of Christ for the body, for the visible world, and for the outcome of world history. Consider carefully: by taking this tack you run the danger of isolating Christ for your soul and you view life in and for the world as something that exists alongside your Christian religion, not controlled by it.”

We must point people to salvation in no other name but Jesus, but we’re only partially done if we point them to a Jesus who offers no wisdom for, or commandments regarding, cultural decisions other than separate and survive until He returns. The public square is not, as Kuyper described “territory which must somehow take care of itself.” Shapiro asked MacArthur repeatedly how believing in Christ affects society, and MacArthur said in effect, “That’s not what Christ cares about.” It is true that discipleship is personal, but not just for how to behave in private.

“From that opposition and false proportionality springs all narrow-mindedness, all inner unreality, if not all sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.”

This is a unique sort of Christian dualism that honors itself as the heights of spirituality and biblical fidelity, and no wonder many Christians don’t know that the Romans Road isn’t finished after evangelism.

Steal Like an Artist

4 of 5 stars to Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This is a small book, easy and enjoyable to read, with good reminders to keep looking and learning. I laughed at the following quote, used it in a talk already, and think it’s a good summary of the benefit of Kleon’s book. As the French author André Gide wrote,

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

North! or Be Eaten

5 of 5 stars to North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

Book #2 in the Wingfeather Saga was no let down, though it’s not quite as light a story as #1. The plot surprised me multiple times all the way to the end. At a few points in the middle of the book I’ll admit I was irritated, but in good ways, because I wanted to know what’s going to happen? but also knew that certain events meant that answers were even farther away. Excited to start #3 soon.

Roaring Lambs

4 of 5 stars to Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World by Robert Briner

A friend recommended this book to me a few months ago and it really was worthwhile. It was first published in 1993, so there are more chapters that could be added now, but I appreciated Briner’s encouragement for Christians to get out of boycotting and grumbling and into screenwriting (for movies and TV) as well as into journalism and other writing endeavors, along with visual arts and higher education. The biggest weakness, in my opinion, is that Briner doesn’t root his exhortations in the deep soil of God’s sovereignty over all the world, such as a Kuyperian would do. And I disagree with Briner that all of this is the church’s job to manage, though the church should be equipping and encouraging Christian disciples to work, which, I agree with him, the church has not done well. As he said early in the book, “Almost nothing in my church or collegiate experiences presented possibilities for a dynamic, involved Christian life outside the professional ministry.” That’s a need that this book seeks to tackle.

Digital Minimalism

2 of 5 stars to Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

There used to be a short answer to the problem posed by Newport that he takes almost three hundred pages to answer. What should we do about all the time-wasting, social-media-hyped, internet-exacerbated problems in society? We need self-control. So all he really needed was a hyphen, not hyperventilation. Though I thought Deep Work was a smidgen too precious, this book is supersized precious. There’s very little fun, though there are occasional common sense reminders about the benefit of focus. The primary way Newport suggests getting better at social media is to avoid it. And it goes against something I wrote recently about carrying my own digital man purse. As I said in that post, I don’t love FB at all, but I wouldn’t recommend this book by Newport as the antidote, to FB, Twitter, email, or to a wealth of online opportunities which also carry some risks.

So Let’s Do Something About That

A few months ago a friend of mine recommended to me Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World. I’m about to finish it, and will give a Goodreads review soon. But since there’s a group of us working to start a college in the near future, I really appreciated the following quote from chapter 8, “The Christian Academe: Underachievers.”

Christian college graduates typically have commitment, but not confidence. They have ideals, but not vision. Except for those going into the professional ministry, no one has laid out for most of them either the possibilities or the responsibilities of penetrating every area of our society with the message of Christ.” (157, emphasis mine)

Men and Marriage

4 of 5 stars to Men and Marriage by George Gilder

Men and Marriage is both perfectly obvious and eerily prophetic, especially since it was published in 1986. Because Gilder doesn’t work from the Bible’s revelation, he can’t celebrate fatherhood as a reflection of the Father, and he misses the purposeful and powerful call to men to be fruitful. Gilder sees marriage as a good thing for men (and women), but mostly as women tame the barbarians. Nevertheless he painstakingly shows how ugly and dangerous and sick societies get when they don’t promote and protect the bond of one man with one woman in marriage with kids to come and care for.

The Screwtape Letters

5 of 5 stars to The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

This is some next level temptation insight. I don’t like demons, but I do like snark, so there is a lot to enjoy, even to learn from snarky Uncle Screwtape. Lewis is really good at nailing slippery sinful inner inclinations to the wall, and in this book he does so while also making our spiritual enemies look silly.

The Aeneid

3 of 5 stars to The Aeneid by Virgil

2018 – Read the whole epic thing this time around for our Tenebras class. The gods do not agree, Turnus is mad, and watch out for Camilla.

2013 – Read much of this poem, but not all, this time through with the Omnibus class. Shows the power of story, and the power of art to tell a story, for providing purpose to a people’s culture.

No fiction writer could have imagined the following exchange I recently heard, and I’m thinking about making it my bio:

“Why do you want to keep a moldy Spice Girl?”

“Because that’s what I do.”